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The three named eating disorders are: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Symptoms of eating disorders can be very different for each individual. Eating Disorders are a way of coping with underlying issues.

These underlying issues can be a variety of things including bullying, abuse, loss, trauma, difficult family environment. Anything that causes hurt, shame and abandonment will sometimes cause a person to ‘cover over’ the pain they feel.

We all have to eat – sometimes people turn to the thing they can control the most easily. Eating Disorders often provide an identity and a sense of value where it has been lost in another area of their life.

Anorexia (or nervous loss of appetite) often involves a person being underweight. They can be very rigid about the foods they eat and can avoid most fattening foods. As with most eating disorders, sufferers tend to have a fixation on their body and find it hard to see themselves as they really are. People with anorexia feel safe if they can control their body weight and shape.

One way they may regulate this control is by weighing themselves frequently. Sometimes this need for control through their body illustrates a lack of control in another area of their life.

For others not eating numbs the pain they feel. They literally don’t feel the hurt from the past if they don’t eat.

Bulimia is slightly different from anorexia in that sufferers are often a normal weight or their weight can fluctuate. Bulimics tend to compensate for what they eat by restricting their eating for periods of time, vomiting, taking laxatives and diuretics or excessive exercise. Bulimics often describe an insatiable hunger that leads them to binge on food and then get rid of it (purge). Bulimics also have a fixation on good and bad foods and with their body.

However, because they are at a normal weight, they can use the process of bingeing and vomiting to deal with feelings and hurt from the past. It becomes difficult to separate out these feelings as bulimia becomes very addictive.

Binge Eating Disorder or Compulsive eating can also involve sufferers eating large amounts of food, however, they tend to not compensate for eating. It can feel like a vicious circle – they might have a period of eating a lot of food, which will make them gain weight, which in turn will make them more anxious which makes them want to eat more.

Eating Disorders overlap and a lot of people have symptoms of more than one eating disorder. Each eating disorder is very different and it can be a complex process to unravel the eating with the issues underneath. I*EAT believe in seeing a person with their own identity, gifts, passions, qualities and not as an anorexic/bulimic/binge eater. They are a person with an eating disorder. It is not all they are.

For personal stories from people who have recovered go to our stories of hope page. Link to SWEDA website for more information on eating disorders

There are many occasions when an eating disorder needs inpatient care. For advice on where and how to proceed with getting help with rehab please click here.


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